Our opening act for next Thursday’s show is The Strangers Almanac. Ahead of the show Andy spoke to main Stranger Gord Mathieson.
AW – Could you tell us a little bit about who you are and how The Strangers Almanac came into being?
GM – My name is Gord, I grew up in a town called Cupar in Fife, and The Strangers Almanac began when I wanted a little side project to complement the grungier band I was playing in at the time. Gradually over the years though it has become my main focus. The band features my friend Avril on a variety of instruments, and when they’re available, Mark Keiller and Mike Lennie from local rock scamps Pensioner. They’re both close friends too, I find it difficult working with people I don’t know well. Ironically, I’m actually quite awkward around strangers.
AW – For anyone who is, as yet, unfamiliar with The Strangers Almanac what can they expect when seeing you live for the first time?
GM – That depends on who’s available to help me out! The songs have been performed in a few different ways with different instruments, so I suppose you could say people can expect the unexpected. Lately we’ve been performing as a duo, Avril and I have been playing together for years and she’s very much an important part of the band.
AW – To date, you’ve released a download album, Car Boat Sail and a single ‘Whale Watching For Beginners’. How has the response been to these releases?
GM – Generally okay I think. There’s been one or two negative reviews and people writing back saying they just weren’t interested, but to be honest I didn’t do a great deal of self-promotion, I should probably have sent copies off to way more blogs and labels than I actually did, so I can’t really complain when the glowing five star reviews never appear! My brother thinks that ‘Whale Watching For Beginners’ is the best song I’ve written, which is nice.
AW – What has been your most memorable gig to date?
GM – I did a solo set at the Byre Theatre last year sometime, there were about 70 people there and every one of them sat in silence for the entire gig, which was just bizarre. When you play acoustic music in pubs you get used to people talking over you so it’s a pleasant surprise when people are listening to every word. It was actually quite nerve wracking, because there’s no other noise to cover any mistakes you make, and I tend to make a lot of mistakes.
AW – What’s the best and what’s the oddest response you’ve ever had to your music?
GM – A guy got in touch once to tell me he’d remixed one of my songs, he sent me the remix and it was excellent. It was odd because it was unexpected, but it was flattering. I’d always thought I’d hate being remixed, but this guy did a great job. I’m not sure what the best response has been, but it’s always nice when people tell you they liked your gig or your album. It’s even better when they single out specific songs and ask about them, that’s when you know you’ve really captured someone’s attention.
AW – The lyrics have a real storytelling element to them. How do you approach the lyrics and topics in your songs? Do you, as The Daily Record suggested, like to spend your nights in old mans pubs?
GM – I think it’s a nice thing to tell a story in a song, I don’t do it 100% of the time but it’s definitely something I aim for. That Daily Record quote was referring to a song called ‘People Don’t Go To Clubs (Til After Midnight)’, which was written after I was helping a friend DJ at a club one night and there was nobody else there until after midnight, which is obviously when the pubs start turfing people out. I found it funny that we were essentially playing tunes for our own amusement, so when I got home I wrote about it, although I embellished certain elements to make it funnier. When I’m feeling really creative I’ll make up a story or an encounter, and write from someone else’s perspective. The narrator in most of the songs has a kind of deadpan style of humour, which is always a fun way to write. Any good story has at least one or two jokes too, and there’s nothing wrong with sticking a few jokes in songs as long as you don’t get carried away and turn into Tenacious D or something.
AW – What do The Strangers Almanac have planned for the near future? Are there any new recordings in the pipeline?
GM – Ideally there will be another album before the year is out. I’m a bit picky and I don’t like the idea of just throwing together ten songs that don’t have anything in common, in terms of themes, so it’s taking me ages to write. The last album, Car Boat Sail, was essentially a concept album about a trip around the world and the end of a relationship and the intertwining of those two ideas. The songs all discussed similar topics, or had different perspectives on the same subject, which keeps things interesting for me, and hopefully for anyone who listens to it too.
AW – What are your influences musical and otherwise?
GM – Naturally I’m inspired by one man projects that disguise themselves as bands, such as Eels, The Mountain Goats, Iron & Wine and Bright Eyes.
Eels are important to me because they taught me that it’s okay to continually reinterpret your songs. Change the rhythm, tempo, whatever, it’s nice to know that people will rarely see the same performance of a song twice. It makes things a lot harder, in terms of re-learning things, but it’s fun.
Non-musically, my influences are things like space, science and the natural world. I like history too, and there’s a fair bit of that on the Car Boat Sail album.
AW – What would the perfect gig be like for The Strangers Almanac?
GM – We’d be supporting the Eels in an old man’s pub full of people who listened intently. Afterwards we’d all go out to a club for a bit of a dance. But not until after midnight obviously!
AW – Finally, anything else that you’d like to add?
GM – I just hope everyone will make it to Dexters early on the 22nd to see us open the show. And thanks for reading if you made it this far!
To whet your appetite for the Strangers Almanac performance, here’s a solo version of the song ‘Walkabout’:
The Strangers Almanac will be opening the FOUND show at Dexter’s in Dundee on Thursday 22nd September with performance also from Man Without Machines and Martin John Henry.
Tickets for the show can be purchased online here or from Groucho’s in Dundee. Additionally myself and Andy will be delighted to sell you tix at the advance price of £7 per ticket.
The Facebook event for the show is here.